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Grapes, greens and beans: How to get lucky in 2014

My mother was a superstitious woman. Her Creole roots ran deep, and she made a crawfish pie that would knock your socks off.

Why she married my father and settled down in rural Montana, I guess I’ll never know. But I find myself wanting to learn more about her history now that she’s gone.

New Year’s Eve has to be my favorite holiday, hands-down. After that my top 3 are Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest (some would argue it’s not a real holiday, but tell that to the German side of my family and you’re likely to get splashed in the face with a bowl of Kaltschalen.)

It was my mother who taught me everything about food that, until just a few years ago, I never realized I knew. She also taught me about superstition, but made sure I knew to stay away from voodoo. I was a good listener who happened to grow up in a traditional Lutheran church, so there’s that.

New Year’s Eve and food superstitions go hand-in-hand. We all know you’re supposed to eat black-eyed peas or collard greens for luck and prosperity, but there are a few out there that you might not be aware of.

Empty cupboards on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the new year, so make sure your pantry is stocked up or you might go hungry, she told me once.

Eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape symbolizes one month. If a grape is sour, it means that month will be a bad one. If it’s sweet, then that’s good news for you.

Lentils symbolize coins, which bring prosperity. Have those along with some black-eyed peas and collards (the green leaves allegedly represent money) and you’ll be in good financial shape in 2014. As a disclaimer, I should mention that I have yet to reap the benefits of any such prosperity, but I’ll chalk that up to my career choice more than anything else.

When I was a child, my mother combined embraced our family’s Creole and German heritage by serving up pork and sauerkraut for good luck and a progressive new year. Pigs root forward with their snouts while eating, the tradition says, while chickens scratch backwards with their feet.

I don’t know if all that work did any good, but I know my family never went hungry, even in the leanest of years. We were lucky. Now that I have my own home, I’ve got a lot on my proverbial plate.

My Irish-Italian husband is a Baltimore native and that heritage comes with its own cornucopia of traditions. I fear I’ll never be able to make a crab cake as good as the recipe on the side of the Old Bay seasoning tin, but that’s my cross to bear.

I’m sure I missed a few. What are your favorite New Year’s Eve traditions?